5 Questions with Chancellor Yang


Joanne Rhee
Staff Writer
Photo Courtesy of UCSB Office of the Chancellor

Our very own Chancellor Yang spoke with the Bottom Line regarding plans and hopes for the upcoming year, as well as his own life and journey here at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

What are some positive changes you hope to see this upcoming school year?

I am delighted to welcome our students and all members of our campus community to the academic year ahead. We’ve made great progress on many important fronts in the past year, and we look forward to an exciting 2015-16. My goal, this year as always, is to continue to make UC Santa Barbara an even better place for teaching, research, and public service. I am proud and honored to work with so many wonderful students and dedicated colleagues who are committed to the same goal. It is rewarding to see that UC Santa Barbara has been moving ahead steadily in every measure of the quality and diversity of our programs, faculty, and students.

I would like to continue our success in raising the international stature of our campus. I am very proud that we have been garnering increased recognition for the excellence of our faculty, the quality and diversity of our students, and the strength and innovation of our academic programs. Just this month, our campus was ranked as the No. 8 public university in the country by U.S. News & World Report. And last month, Times Higher Education of London published an article ranking UC Santa Barbara No. 7 worldwide for producing Nobel laureates in the 21st century. Six of our faculty members have won Nobel Prizes, and one of our alumnae is also among the distinguished roster of Nobel laureates.

These achievements are the result of the sustained, collaborative efforts of all of us, including our students.

We are committed to providing the best intellectual and living environment for our students. As part of that commitment, we are working diligently to make positive changes in Isla Vista. It is a multi-faceted effort involving representation from all segments of our campus, working in collaboration with relevant agencies of the County and the Isla Vista community to improve the quality of the living and learning environment there, and to ensure the health and safety of our students. I very much appreciate the leadership and participation of our students in this important endeavor, as well as the contributions of our faculty, staff, Trustees, alumni, and community partners.

All of these efforts are making a difference. For example, thanks to Professor of Art Kim Yasuda and our enthusiastic students, our campus has been able to work collaboratively with the community to increase weekend and late night events with a creative focus. First Fridays in Isla Vista have provided regularly scheduled alternative events hosted on the first Friday of every month in the parks and public spaces of Isla Vista.

The desire to increase the amount of campus-owned housing available to our students was the motivating factor behind the recent purchase of the Tropicana housing complex on El Colegio Road. The acquisition will provide additional housing options for our students who wish to live in Isla Vista, and allow us to provide greater safety and more services for our students, such as academic and psychological counseling, improvement of the quality of student life, and an enhanced learning and living environment.

There’s currently a lot of construction on and off campus. What are your plans for these renovations and what can students expect once they are complete?

Regarding the construction projects on campus. As a world-class university, we are committed to providing our students, faculty, and staff with the most advanced facilities to support our missions of teaching, research, and public service. We want our students to have the best possible living and learning environment. In addition, we also want our campus to appropriately reflect and complement our academic stature and culture, as well as be in harmony with our sophisticated community and beautiful natural setting.

The expansion and remodel of the UC Santa Barbara Library is transforming the heart of our campus, adding 150,000 square feet of new and renovated space. The new Library will provide many resources to benefit our students, including a state-of-the-art Special Research Collections facility, Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory, and a 24-Hour Learning Commons.

During the spring quarter we broke ground on our new BioEngineering Building, located behind the Library. Our campus’s Center for BioEngineering (CBE) will be housed in this state-of-the-art building, scheduled to open in 2016. The three-story, 48,000-square-foot building will include faculty and graduate student offices, research labs, administrative offices, and a 100-seat auditorium. It will be the home of the CBE and the Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies.

Construction progress continues at the site of the old Faculty Club, now known as The Club. It will add 30 new guest rooms, an enhanced dining room, and new meeting rooms. We expect it to open by late spring of 2016.

Finally, we’re very close to the grand opening of the Sierra Madre Villages on the west end of campus. The Villages, which will provide housing for 511 students in 115 units, is now welcoming its first residents.

What made you decide to become Chancellor?

I love teaching, research, and service, and it is fair to say that I got involved in administration because of my teaching, not the other way around. Before coming here, I served as the Dean of Engineering at Purdue for ten years. I was not thinking of leaving Purdue, but I was approached by the Office of the President of the University of California for an interview and was offered the opportunity as Chancellor of our campus, and I accepted it with great honor and dedication. My wife, Dilling, and I are humbled and excited to work with our colleagues, students, parents, alumni, friends, and supporters every day to enhance the stature of our university and fulfill our mission.

It is a privilege to serve as UC Santa Barbara’s chancellor. Dilling and I truly love this campus. We love our interactions with our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and supporters, and we are constantly energized and inspired by all the wonderful, creative, and innovative work being carried out here. We have always been happy and proud to be members of this UC Santa Barbara family.

Our students are the reason we are all here. I find great joy and satisfaction in taking part in undergraduate education as well as mentoring graduate students. I am currently supervising three Ph.D. students, all supported by my National Science Foundation grants. I also teach an undergraduate course in mechanical engineering every year. This year, I am offering it online.


If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself as a college student, knowing what you know now?

As far as advice goes, I would say, remember that as a university student, you control your own time. You must be self-motivated and self-disciplined.  If you can budget your time well, you will enjoy your college life and leave here with an outstanding education as well as wonderful memories and lifelong friendships.

The foundations that you are building at UC Santa Barbara will equip you with the skills to learn on your own for the rest of your life. Take the time to talk with your classmates, T.A.s, and professors. Some of them will remain friends and colleagues. Your teachers and even your peers are wonderful sources of advice to you for your career and for your future life. Also, take advantage of the many wonderful offerings we have here on campus, including opportunities for research, volunteering, creative activities, and inspiring events.

Last, but not least, where is your favorite place to eat in Isla Vista?

Finally, my favorite place to eat? Actually, our four and soon to be five campus dining commons are my favorite restaurants. Dilling and I just pick up our plate and bowl, find a table, and chat with our students about their concerns and their lives.